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The example of Jesus is the most powerful argument against the idea of a ruling clergy. Did he model one thing, only to build another? We think not! Did He come serving only to elevate His anti-type later? The spirit of antichrist speaks not only of anything that replaces Christ, but also of what is the opposite of Him. Christ's likeness in a thing determines its legitimacy. Does it reflect Him or not? If not, it is not His and it is most certainly against Him. As it is the Father's will that His Son might fill all things, whatsoever does not reflect him, is most certainly not His. If it is not His doing, reflecting His image, His character, is it then His workmanship, His ekklesia?
Christ came as a servant. His servanthood is the new standard of greatness in the kingdom of God.
"But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: exactly like the Son of man came not to be served (diakoneo), but to serve (diakoneo), and to give his life a ransom for many." (Matthew 20:25-28)
Here Jesus is contrasting the idea of Gentile ruling with serving, the idea of dominion and authority over others is contrasted by His own example. He did not come to demand service, as a king, but to serve. The example of Christ cries no! A thousand times no! "It shall not be so among you!" Historically, the church has looked nothing like the serving messiah. It has traded the servant's towel, for clerical robe and is above the washing of feet, as kneeling has become so far beneath the priestly and kingly status of its clergy. How far we have fallen from the divine standard only God fully appreciates.
Forgive us Father, for ever wanting other than Your Son as our example, our Divine mandate! Set before our eyes the image of the Lord of heaven on his knees serving. Washing the road-weary feet, dirty, perhaps smelly. Love constraining. Love bowing low. Love wrapped in a servant's towel (see John 13:1-18)!
This is what the first century elderly modeled. This is what they handed down. They were examples, not of some legal standard of perfection as modeled by a lofty priesthood who says to itself, "If Jesus is now ruling and reigning, then we can too." He has not left us to rule and reign, but to serve just as He did. He contrasted the servant leadership that He modeled, with that of the Scribes and Pharisees, comparing the heart motivation and outworking of each.
"The thief [the Scribes and the Pharisees of chapter nine] does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly." (John:10:10)
Jesus is making a comparison here. Thieves and robbers come to steal and take life. He came to give life. Here we see the glaring difference between the Pharisee/clergy and Jesus.
"All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers." Abbott holds that the idea is, "All who came, not entering through the door, but claiming to be before me, having the precedence, independent of me, are thieves and robbers." This seems to harmonize with the context, and is probably the Savior's meaning. He included the Jewish rabbis, the Greek philosophers, the pretended prophets, and the "Infallible Pope." These all refuse to bow to his authority."
Such are hirelings who cared not for the sheep. (See verse 13.)
"I lay down my life for the sheep," Jesus said, and history attests to the truth of it. Time is measured both before and after the servant life of Christ, as if to pause in reverence, separating what was BC, "before Christ," from what is AD anno Domini,"In the year of our Lord."
All who come before (pro) Christ, in His place of eminence, are the same as thieves and robbers, driven by ambition and self-interest. They were and are motivated by private ambition. The money is good. They love the recognition. They love the feeling of power and control. Jude warned, "These are hidden rocky reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you, shepherds who without fear feed themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn leaves without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots" (Jude 1:12). They are hirelings, shepherds feeding themselves. They flee when the sacrifice of caring for the sheep becomes too great.
Here is the hireling's test. If you can pass it, you may not be a hireling. Care for the sheep at no expense to the sheep. Don't receive a wage; do it for nothing. Go beyond that and serve Christ's sheep at your own expense. Do this for three years and you will have passed the hireling's test. You will be walking in the footsteps of greatness, the footsteps of the ONE who came to serve and lay down His life for His sheep.
Christ's sheep have been corralled, mistreated and imprisoned by thieves and robbers for the last 1700 years or more. Confined and abused, they have viewed the Father's greener pastures from afar. Beyond the walls of the sheep pen the green pastures beckon, but they must not go forth. They remember the stories, like urban legends told around a campfire, of the uncertain fate of those that left and never returned, and the horrors of the many and mysterious dangers lurking beyond the walls. Warned of the rebellion of feeding outside the confines of the sheep pen, and handed yet another stale liturgical biscuit, they whither away, somehow convinced it is their duty to so.
They say that if you put a grasshopper in a jar, at first he will hop and bang his head on the jar lid a few times. Finally, he will quit hopping. You can even take him out of the jar and put him back in the field, but he will never hop again for fear of bumping his head. So many in the church today are like that fabled grasshopper.
A Shake-up in Judea
His popularity was soaring, especially since the news of the miracle had spread abroad. To raise to life again a corpse that had been entombed four days, was unthinkable. The religious leaders, fearing the loss of their status, were charged with nervous energy. They were upset. "The world is gone after him," they said, as thoughts of murder filled their minds. Even Greeks came saying, "We want to see him, We would see Jesus."
The feast of Passover was at hand, and He must go, for this year the fulfillment of the feast would be dependent upon his participation. First, there was something he must do, something he desired very earnestly. He would draw away from the crowds, and gather the twelve, to eat the last Pascal meal; a meal teaming with types and shadows, the fulfillment of which were only hours away. He yearned to reveal the prophetic significance of this meal to His disciples, and it would soon be manifest before their eyes.
When Supper was over, Jesus got up from the table, and the disciples, thinking he was performing the usual ceremonial hand washing, kept their seats. But something was wrong. Why was Jesus straying from the traditional format? Perhaps He had grabbed that servant's apron by mistake. Why is He filling that water basin? There are servants for that! Now what is He doing? Why is He doing that? Surely not! He knelt before them One by one, until every dirty foot in the room was clean. Then He said, "Do you know what I have done to you?" They were speechless. Never before had they seen a King wash His servant's feet. They saw with their eyes what we can only imagine, "God with us," washing human feet.
The model of leadership in the ekklesia is not the CEO but the household slave.
For from His knees in the upper room, Jesus said, "For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you." (John 13: 15 WEB)
Father, set this example before us like frontlets between our eyes!
Jesus did leave us an example to follow - one that stands in stark antithesis to the current notion of Church Leadership. This model from heaven, like oil, will not mix with the waters of historic ecclesiastical despotism.